52apolooza sinks its teeth into I, Vampire! Is it any good? Click and find out!
Welcome to 52apolooza, the Outhouse feature focusing on DC's September Relaunch. All of DC's 52 titles will be reviewed by our pool of reviewers to point out the best and worst that DC's new comic book line has to offer. To see how this book ranks among the other new DC titles, be sure to check out our 52apolooza Rankings!
I, Vampire features gorgeous art, a surprisingly strong story and vampires. Lots and lots of vampires. How did it do in 52apolooza? Read on and find out!
Grab Bag Reviewer: James Moore
When I first heard about the New 52 relaunch, I hoped, but didn't really expect, that DC would take the opportunity and do some off-the-beaten path recruiting. Like when Joe Quesada and Bill Jemas launched the nuMarvel revelation a decade ago and pulled in creators with strikingly new styles that no one would have expected (this is an era where the gave Peter Milligan and Mike Allred an X-Men spinoff). To my delight, I, Vampire is just such an unexpected and fresh book.
Ignore the Twilighty cover, inside I, Vampire is a smart, vicious horror comic. Andrew Bennett is perhaps one of those most obscure choices for a revival, given his last major role was in the spectacularly tongue-in-cheek metatexual critique Dr. Thirteen: Architecture & Morality. However, as a character with a simple, interesting hook and a reasonably blank slate, he was ripe for reinvention and well-poised to appeal to wider audience.
Several hundred years ago Bennett was turned into a vampire, and for him it wasn't so bad. So he turned his lover, Mary, who promptly turned into a vicious, bloodthirsty monster. Despite this, they stay together for centuries until they split as she decides to lead a vampire war against humanity. It's an idea that could have been handled in a very rote way, but writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Andrea Sorrentino create a near perfect horror comic.
Soretino is an artist with whom I had no previous experience, though the style here is reminiscent of Jae Lee circa Hellshock. It's a good deal more impressionistic than most DCU books and for that reason a good deal more interesting. There's a masterful command of mood balancing and of foreboding with romantic, gothy beauty. I, Vampire is filled with sumptuous images worth lingering over, which adds nicely to it's slow burn pace. Sorrentino is equally at home with the more violent scenes, often imbuing them with a combination of uncompromising horror and dark allure. The violence is never idealized and at points is actually pretty chilling. Sorrentino shows similar restraint with his leads, making them attractive but human. If he can maintain this quality monthly I will be impressed, and if not this should really be an exception to the monthly rule.
That level of quality is equally matched in well-received indie writer Joshua Hale Fialkov's script. Fialkov writes I,Vampire for an intelligent and mature audience. Nothing is spoon-fed to the reader, but it's still a rich, tight script. He covers a lot of ground in this debut issue establishing the relationship between his leads while pointing toward their complex histories, fits in several gripping set pieces and establishes the ground rules for vampires in this universe. Fiakov show a real flair for terse but meaningful dialogue that speaks volumes about his characters. The conversation between Andrew and Mary that drives the book show just how messy and twisted their relationship is. They are a couple with believable chemistry (no small trick when one is a unrepentantly evil) and love, giving sharp layers to their coming breakup. The core of I, Vampire is essentially a lover's spat blown up into savage race war. It's that balance between raw emotion set across such a sprawling conflict that will make I, Vampire such a compelling read each month. Fialkov balances that drama with a sly sense of humor as Andrew and Mary banter flirtatiously and the issue grim centerpiece doubles as a gallows humor version of the Boston Tea Party.
Fialkov and Sorrentino really shine in how their work intermingles. It's confident work in that it trusts in suggestion more than statements. Its evocative and somewhat elliptical storytelling leaves pleasing lacuna for the mind to contemplate. It's a refreshing take in an era where so many books take a "no detail is too banal to include, no explanation too extraneous" approach. I, Vampire is filled weird but beautiful moment like when the lovers are in wolf form and Mary kills a swan as Andrew looks on smitten, or the nigh-apocalyptic corpse strewn Boston (and Andrew being surrounded by a newly risen vampire hoard, or the subway massacre that closes the book. These are well written moments, executed with panache, and they linger after the book is put down.
A lot of books in the DcnU have taken a lot of (well deserved heat) for their handling of sexuality, so it's also worth noting that I, Vampire is a romantic and sensual comic without being exploitative. There is a real, if ironic given their undead status, heat between the leads with Sorrentino using subtle looks and body language, while Fialkov writes them with a rapport you'd expect from a long-standing if troubled couple. It smolders quietly, but also adds to the mature feel of the story.
More than just about any other book from this relaunch, I,Vampire seems like it could appeal to an a mass audience not really interested in superheroes, but with with a great hunger for supernatural romance. Hopefully it reaches this audience, as I'd rather this not be the first example from the new 52 for me to ask "Why can't we have nice things?" about. Either way, excellent work so read it while you can.
Marvel Reviewer: Dragavon
I, Vampire is an interesting book. Told in a mixture of flashback and real time, it's the tale of Andrew, a vampire who just wants to live his quite life without harming anyone and his ex-lover Mary who wants to rule the world. Joshua Hale Fialkov is a writer who shows some amazing potential, especially in this book. The dialogue between Andrew and Mary is compelling with more than enough background given in the few lines, that we are immediately immersed in the storyline with no wasted space or time.
If there is a weak point in this book, it's the art. Andrea Sorrentino's pencils make the action hard to follow sometimes and the pages are so heavily inked that it takes away from the story.
n general this is a great comic, well worth picking up. Maybe with another artist, it could be considered one of the best in the new DC 52.
New Reader Reviewer: Tricia Long
The other night I recommended I, Vampire to a friend of mine. His first response: "Heh, vampires. Do they sparkle?" The cover doesn't do the art in this book justice – it's bare, both the background and the characters (though this cover is not as overtly "fuck-me" as many other comics cough Catwoman cough). You really cannot judge a book by its cover most of the time, so please don't let this oddly bare art scare you away from I, Vampire.
For one, it is an incredibly well-written story. Joshua Hale Fialkov uses a conversation between the two main characters, Mary and Andrew, as a framing device to show the reader everything they need to know about this story, as opposed to telling through what I think of as voice-over (done, done, and done so often in this reboot) or through clunky exposition. I'm so glad that Fialkov took this route, as it places the reader right in the middle of things and challenges them to keep up.
And you'll want to, because there is a lot going on here. The central point seems to be a coming war between vampires and humans started by a lover's quarrel, which is a possible explanation for the reason all of these superheroes are showing up simultaneously. As a side note, I never understood why vampires wanted to make war on humans- it's not like we ever made war on cows. Domesticate your food source, vampires!
In addition to setting up the central conflict of the story, Fialkov did a good job of introducing Mary and Andrew's personalities and central conflict with each other – they were in love, but now they aren't. This isn't too surprising, as the spark usually goes out of a marriage sometime around 20 years and these two have been together for 400. They either need another honeymoon or a war, it's really a tossup.
I feel for Mary, who I see as a modern reincarnation of Lucy from Dracula. Vampirism for her is the freedom to act as she wants with impunity, showing that the good girl façade Andrew fell in love with was just that. I'll be interested to see how her character develops over time, and how Andrew becomes more than just the strong man (ok, supernatural being) who stops her from killing us all.
A quick word about the art: it was awesome. I loved how the different palettes conveyed different points in time, which corresponded to different emotional states for the characters. The colors were subdued, which set off the character's motions and facial expressions even more and gave the whole book a dream-like quality. The night was a peaceful blue, the calm before the storm; while the day was an angry, burning red like the blood that was shed. Really excellent job setting the tone all around – this is how writing and art should work together!
I have to give I, Vampire some low marks for accessibility though – this was a highly formal piece and if the reader wasn't willing to stick with it I could see someone putting it down halfway through. It's quite a change of pace from other issues I've read, where they practically spoon-feed you the nitty gritty details. I had to re-read this book a few times to make sure I had everything down, and even then I'm sure there's something I missed.
I, Vampire is surely intended for mature readers, which both the subdued palette and highly formal structure convey. This isn't one I can see traditional superhero fans picking up, but it might be just the thing to hook some new readers for DC. Horror is hot right now, and with so many doing it poorly (I'm looking at you, American Horror Story), it's great to see someone doing it right.
I cannot wait to pick up the next issue of I, Vampire – if you haven't read this yet, go do it. Now.
Total Score: 92/100
DC Reviewer: Brian Burchette
This is probably the book that will be the most fascinating to observe as the 52 begins. A world within a world as DC's vampire nation begins to form. The two main players are old school vamps with a modern-day venue.
With today's vampires looking like they've all stepped out of a GX magazine or Abercrombie and Fitch store, this is a great return to some old school blood suckers. It is intriguing to see that even as they build their own little empire they are all acutely aware of the meta-humans around them.
The art is dark and moody, giving off the absolute perfect ambiance for this book. There's very little about this book that isn't good and even one like myself who has been tired of the whole vampire genre has to admit that this title deserves a look at. This could very well be one that I see myself collecting in trade as well.
Final Score: 95/100
Final 52apolooza Score: 357/400
(Average score: 89.25)
Written or Contributed by: James Moore, Dragavon, Tricia Long, Brian Burchette